How to Find a Specialty Running Store

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A specialty running store provides a variety of benefits for serious and casual runners. First and foremost, the professionals at these stores can properly fit you with the right running shoes to boost comfort, improve running performance, and prevent injury.

It's not always easy to a running store in your local area, so you may have to travel a little and you may have to pay a little more for the superior customer service. But it's well worth your time, effort, and cost.

What Is a Specialty Running Store?

There are different places to buy your running shoes and gear. Many people buy it online. Others visit a large sporting goods retailer. While these options are fine for some, they provide a different experience than visiting a specialty store.

Technical running stores are usually smaller stores that carry almost all running gear, maybe witha few other items for multisport athletes or walkers. They are usually owned by people who are serious runners and who are present in the store regularly.

Owners (and the staff that they hire) often have a long history of running and a strong dedication to the sport. They might be coaches or competitive athletes. When you visit their store, you get the experience of learning from them and being a part of the running culture that they promote.

Why Visit a Specialty Running Store?

Shopping at a good local running store can be an uplifting experience if you participate in the sport at any level. There is much to learn and many benefits you gain from patronizing these shops.

Proper Shoe Fit

Getting properly fitted for running shoes can make or break your running experience. With the right shoes, you can lower your risk of injury, reduce the likelihood of blisters, feel safer on different types of terrain, gain visibility when running in the dark, and maybe even improve your pace and endurance.

How do specialty running store professionals determine the best shoe for you? Staff often attend workshops and lectures to learn about running mechanics, proper form, and the ways that shoe technology can impact these factors.

They are also likely to have relationships with developers from the top running shoe companies. That means that they can explain the pros and cons of different types of shoes and help you to compare the different styles and features of each.

Most importantly, however, they are trained to analyze your gait and make recommendations for the best shoe. Many stores have treadmills on-site so that they can watch you run. Some stores may also suggest that you bring in your old shoes so that they can analyze the wear pattern on the tread.

Apparel and Gear

Running stores are usually the best place to get your other running gear, such as jackets, gels, socks, and other accessories. While any sporting goods store might carry these items, many times they are not sport-specific.

For example, they might carry athletic socks, but not socks designed specifically for runners. The socks may be made out of cotton instead of moisture-wicking material and may not prevent blisters when you wear them for a long run.

In addition, the staff can make recommendations for the best type of apparel or accessories for you. Since these stores are almost always staffed by seasoned runners, they may be able to provide recommendations based on their own personal experience with the gear.

Running Groups

Many stores have a running group that trains out of the shop. Sometimes, joining the group requires a fee, but many times the shop owner sees value in having runners in their store and offers the service for free. Even if a running store does not have a group, you can often get smart advice from staff about running questions or challenges.

Find a Specialty Running Store

You may have driven past a running store in your town. Perhaps there is a running store in your local mall. But if not, there are other ways to find a store to meet your needs.

Search Online

Do a search for "local running store" and see what turns up. Try to find stores that cater specifically to runners, not general sporting goods stores. They'll usually have the words, "runner" or "running" in the name of the store, like New York Running Co.

Call ahead and ask if they have salespeople who are trained to do a running gait analysis. Although sporting goods chain stores may have a wide selection of shoes, their staff may not have the expertise to determine your running gait or detect any biomechanical issues that should be factored into your choice of running shoes.

You can also check the Fleet Feet Sports website. They have locally-owned specialty running stores all over the U.S. so you can see if they have a location near you. Runners World also offers a store finder page to help you locate specialty running stores in your area.

Ask Other Runners

Someone who's been running for a while will know where to find the closest specialty running store. Ask for one where you can get a gait analysis done in the store. If they offer that service, they'll usually have a treadmill in the store.

If you don't know any other runners, consider reaching out to a coach at a local college or high school. These coaches may even work with a local running store to provide uniforms and other gear for teams.

Running Clubs and Races

Check out running club websites. They often have recommended partners listed. Similarly, local running stores often sponsor races. Email the event organizer to ask for a referral or post on the event's Facebook page asking for recommendations.

If you volunteer or participate in a local race or fun run, look at the event t-shirts or at runner's t-shirts from other events. These shirts almost always have the name and logo from a running store sponsor.

Health Club or Gym

Personal trainers and gym staff most likely will know of specialty running stores in the area. If you don't have a relationship with a trainer, ask at the front desk for the name of a trainer who specializes in running and send them an email if they are not available when you are there.

A Word From Verywell

Visiting a specialty running store can be a valuable experience. However, in some cases, it is a more expensive experience than buying shoes online where you can search for the most competitive price.

If you are on a budget, consider visiting your technical running store when you need to switch shoe brands or shoe styles. You might also visit these local establishments if you have a running problem that proper gear might solve. Then for repeat purchases, save money by buying online.

By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT
Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach.